It’s that time of the year. As a sales leader, you are actively monitoring the health of your business, focusing on sales closures in the last quarter of the year, at the same time you have an eye on next year, as discussions on sales go-to-market planning start to take shape. The list below is the typical flow in the sales planning methodology.
Sales go-to-market planning stages
- Strategic sales go-to-market design
- Sales planning, territory management, sales bag allocation, and quota allocation
- Incentives, commission, and sales performance management
- Sales enablement planing
- Sales forecast and budgeting
- Sales execution
- Sales KPIs and monitoring
For companies whose selling motions are relatively linear, driven by fixed, multi-layered distribution channels (physical and digital), with linear sales process and predictable stable customer segment, these seven stages of sales planning happen in a fairly similar manner year-on-year. Inertia is underlying current in this flowing stream to resist major transformation. Organizations take their year-on-year organizational structure and practices across these seven stages, use them as a base template, and do alterations as needed.
In recent times, leading organizations have based their relatively incremental alterations using an interesting and powerful blend of two kinds of data: operational data (O-data) and experience data (X-data).
Operational and experience data
- Operational data: Financial data, data across metrics in the current and previous year, competitive and industry data, customer insights, etc.
- Experience data: Holistic, emotional insights across the value chain: customers, products, employees, the supply chain and procurement ecosystem, etc.
Then, using the latest and greatest data science platforms, they prepare the foundation to streamline the seven stages of sales go-to-market planning.
The problem of inertia
However, in the rush of going through the motions of this seven-stage process, it’s important to remember the famous proverb that states that if you need to cut down a tree with an axe, spend most your time polishing the axe to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the tree-cutting process. That’s exactly the role of the first stage in the sales planning process. The sales go-to-market design thus becomes the most important part of the process. The risk is the force of inertia that makes the organization adverse to change. At this design phase, organizations have the opportunity to become disruptive, creative, game-changers and generate significant exponential value for the coming years – which is possible when you wear the green hat in the Six Thinking Hats framework by Edward de Bono. Go beyond incremental changes to the year-on-year template and look at your business as if you are a startup, entrepreneur, and innovator.
Taking a big step back, slowing down the design phase, and observing with an open mind how the design phase can be used to strategically achieve your goals is a mix of science and art. If you are the head of sales in a large organization, what does this mean from an actionable standpoint in the design phase? The model below provides a framework to balance your design to align sales go-to-market with your corporate strategy.
Figure: Strategic sales go-to-market design model
Core, repeatable business model
This part of your existing sales design comprises the core, repeatable business model. However, while exploring this, evaluate your business model – not in isolation for what worked in the past – rather for what’s happening externally in the market and what’s the forecast. Large, successful organizations usually do this section exceedingly well
Challenge yourself on what you can do to disrupt and do something completely new. There have to be innovative ways of going to market that can truly differentiate your sales organization. Innovations could be in sales process execution, in the way you design your matrix territory structure, and in how you structure your sales organization in order to provide a true customer experience.
Keep space for the unpredictable deviations from your plan. Sometimes the madness in sales execution and post-sales planning occurs because randomness is not factored into the design. However, randomness is natural, given changing markets, competition, and technology. Hence, factor in some space and blend randomness into the design. This helps in the quarterly execution of sales.
Strategic programs are an excellent, top-down tool that many organizations use. Decide on strategic goals for the organization, such as brand maturation, creating a new market, selling to strategic accounts, and key deals. It’s important to note that these are strategic programs – not merely projects or initiatives. This means they must be led with as much importance as your normal operating model, with a sales strategy, allocated budget, and key talent executing them. Avoid multitasking if possible; these programs are strategic by nature, so the person running this will ideally focus purely on them.
Slowing down and polishing the axe before cutting down the tree is the key. During this process, leveraging the right thought leadership in your sales go-to-market design can set the platform for a successful sales go-to-market planning process.
Learn about how Experience Management is enabled by the Intelligent Enterprise with industry-relevant Experience Management use cases by joining our Webinar on October 8th.